George Santos, or what the lies of the elected legislator say about US politics

First modification: 06/01/2023 – 21:36

New York (AFP) – Republican George Santos has admitted to fabricating his life story and is under investigation in the United States and Brazil, but he still went to Capitol Hill this week to be sworn in.

On the table since The New York Times revealed the many gray areas of his biography just before Christmas, the 34-year-old lawmaker-elect and son of Brazilians appeared largely isolated this week in the House of Representatives, dodging questions from journalists.

Mistreated even on the conservative Fox News network, where he admitted the “mistake” of having touched up his resume, this newcomer to Congress, now the target of several judicial investigations, including one in Brazil for fraud with stolen checks, refuses to resign.

“I’m not fake,” he told Fox News.

Among the Republicans, entangled in his inability to choose the president of the lower house, no heavyweight has publicly asked him to give up his seat, seized from the Democrats in the 3rd district of the state of New York, in the suburbs of the megalopolis.

“American dream”

Sporting large glasses, Santos portrays himself on his website as the son of Brazilian immigrants in search of the “American dream,” who grew up in New York’s popular Queens borough and is also openly gay.

New York Republican congressman George Santos in discussion with his colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene on the floor in Washington on January 5, 2023 © WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

But several mentions of his biography have disappeared. He no longer figures that he graduated from Baruch College, attended the Horace Mann School, a prestigious private high school in the Bronx, or worked in finance for Citigroup or Goldman Sachs, as he alleged.

Santos is also accused of lying or exaggerating in presenting himself as “a proud Jewish American”: he grew up in a Catholic family but maintains his “heritage is Jewish” as the grandson of Holocaust survivors who fled Nazi barbarism.

Head of a financial consulting firm, he also allegedly inflated his income and the property he owned.

“old fashioned”

Beyond the calls for resignation from the Democratic camp, the revelations caused some astonishment.

For Joshua Tucker, co-director of New York University’s Center for the Study of Social Media and Politics, it’s more about “old-fashioned political history” than about “misinformation on social media.”

“But what’s crazy about this story is the extent of his lie…it’s quite amazing that in the modern digital information age he has gotten away with it for so long,” he told AFP.

Some observers saw it as a symptom of the difficulties of the local press, in a country where an average of more than two newspapers per week disappear, according to a report by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (Illinois) in 2022.

at all costs

However, a local conservative newspaper, The North Shore Leader, had raised serious doubts about Santos’ financial situation before his election, but the information was not picked up nationally. Santos also benefited from the attrition of Democrats in New York state in the November midterm elections.

“The press is too easy a target,” two Middle Tennessee State University professors, Ken Paulson and Kent Syler, wrote in The Tennessean newspaper.

According to them, the reproaches should be directed more towards the Republican and Democratic parties, guilty of not having identified George Santos’ faults much earlier.

“Today’s hyperpolarized political culture is fueled by a win-at-all-cost mentality, where the end justifies the means,” they added.

“People have always lied on their CVs,” Joshua Tucker added. But what “perhaps changed” after the term of Republican magnate Donald Trump (2017-2021), is that the limit beyond which a politician is forced to resign has been delayed.

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